CHELSEY, Ontario, April 25, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Public school trustees in southwestern Ontario’s Bluewater District board have voted to ban the free distribution of Gideon Bibles to grade 5 students under their jurisdiction.

Bluewater has over 18,000 students in 53 schools in Ontario’s Bruce and Grey counties.

According to a Canadian Press (CP) report, when Bill Donovan, a father with one child in the Bluewater District board, discovered the board had no policy on the issue, he complained that the distribution of free bibles “undermines the secular nature” of public schools.

The 8-3 vote last week ended a decades-old tradition in schools in the Bluewater board of giving the bibles free to grade 5 students with parental consent.

“I feel most pleased, though, that the decision derived from the law of the land, administered by an elected board, in a secular fashion,” Donovan said, according to the CP.

The Gideons, an evangelical Protestant association based in Nashville, Tennessee, have been placing Bibles containing the New Testament plus the Psalms and Proverbs from the Old Testament in Canadian public schools since 1936.

“Even if [students] read the scripture to kill free time between classes, their thoughts will be impressed with Jesus Christ rather than with thoughts of negative, unconstructive influences of the world that surround them today,” the society states.

Rev. Mark Koehler, pastor at First St. Matthews Lutheran Church in Hanover, Ontario, responded to the decision, telling CP, “I’m not even a Gideon. I’m just a concerned Christian parent in a country that’s still 70 per cent Christian.”

“We’ve taken prayer out of school. We can’t say certain greetings at Christmas time. We don’t want further erosion of our Christian faith and heritage to happen,” Rev. Koehler said.

A spokesman for Gideons International in Canada said his organization will not push to have the bible distribution reinstated.

Contact information:

Bluewater District School Board
P.O. Box 190, 351 1st Avenue North
Chesley, Ontario N0G 1L0
Phone: (519) 363-2014
Fax: (519) 370-2909
Email: communications@bwdsb.on.ca

Jan Johnstone, Bluewater Trustee Chair
Phone: (519) 396-1467
Email: jan_johnstone@bwdsb.on.ca